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IDF Confirms It Is Flooding Hamas Tunnels in Gaza With Seawater

Feb. 1—The Times of Israel, the New York Times and numerous other publications reported that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) issued a statement Jan. 30 confirming that the military “has implemented new capabilities to neutralize underground terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip by channeling large volumes of water into the tunnels.” The IDF developed “several tools for injecting high-flow water into Hamas tunnels in the Gaza Strip,” the statement said, adding that they were employing them as “part of the variety of tools the IDF has for dealing with tunnels.”

There had been rumors and source reports going back to last October that the IDF was engaging in this activity, but now it has been officially confirmed. If all the tunnels, or even a large part of them are flooded, the consequences will be disastrous for all life in the region. As the New York Times reported, “despite large volumes of water being pumped, many of the tunnels are porous, resulting in seepage into the surrounding soil rather than a deluge through the passageways.”

It is unclear exactly how many of the tunnels are being flooded; there are reports of more than 500 miles of tunnels, some as much as ten stories below ground level, in Gaza. An intelligence source with connections to Israeli intelligence said that the reports may be in part "psywar," intended the put pressure on the Hamas leadership to accept a new 6-week ceasefire proposal, which calls for the exchange of the most of the hostages held by Hamas in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners, the amounts in both cases, have not been disclosed. 

The new deal came as a result of pressure from the U.S., Quatar, and Egypt, who crafted the proposal in Paris with Israeli negotiators. Hamas has acknowledged receipt of the offer, and its leadership is under pressure to accept it from both Iran and Russia. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finds himself under "serious pressure from the White House" who continues to make statements that he would never accept the creation of a Palestinian state, even if Hamas is not part of its leadership. Following an intelligence briefing that reported on the recent conclave in Israel of lunatic members of Bibi's coalition and other zealots on the "resettlement of Gaza" by Jewish settlers, sources report that President "Sleepy Joe" Biden flew into a profane rage at the Israeli leader for allowing this to take place, saying Bibi's actions are beyond defense. Biden has reportedly ordered U.S. representatives speaking in public to only defend the State of Israel, and avoid any mention or defense of Netanyahu or his government.

The U.S.is also reported to have warned Netanyahu about the flooding of the tunnels, and the damage such actions could cause, both in real terms, and to the image of Israel and its defenders, like the U.S. This intelligence source said that the IDF has a fairly good idea where the remaining hostages might be kept and would not risk flooding any area that might kill them.

But any flooding could have other devastating consequences. "It will cause severe damage to the already fragile water and sewage infrastructure that’s in Gaza,” said Lynn Hastings, then the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator for the Palestinian Territories, in a Dec. 13, 2023, press briefing

The Jan. 30 IDF statement provided the assurance that not all tunnels in Gaza were being flooded, and that the IDF had carried out “professional and comprehensive” tests, including an “analysis of the soil characteristics and the water systems in the area to ensure that damage is not done to the area’s groundwater.”

The Times of Israel article reported that the tunnel network runs 350-400 miles long, according to IDF officials, which is much more than previously believed. The entire Gaza Strip is only 25 miles in length, at its longest point. “The tunnels are believed to be accessed by some 5,700 shafts…. The IDF said Hamas had used more than 6,000 tons of concrete and 1,800 tons of steel and likely invested tens of millions of dollars into the project.” IDF officials told the daily that “it could potentially take years to dismantle the network.” 

Gaza: A Moral Challenge for Environmentalists

Feb.1—The following quotes on the longer-term environmental impact of the ongoing, now-escalating, systemic destruction of the people and the land of Palestine are taken from the Jan. 13 article “The Poisoning of Gaza—From Above and Underground: How Israel’s war is making the strip increasingly unlivable for generations to come,” by journalist Joshua Frank. (Republished from Jan. 11 on TomDispatch as “The Killing of Gaza’s Environment Or How to Create an Unlivable Hellscape on One Strip of Land.”)

“Flooding tunnels with polluted groundwater ‘will cause an accumulation of salt and the collapse of the soil, leading to the demolition of thousands of Palestinian homes in the densely populated strip,’ says Abdel-Rahman al-Tamimi, director of the Palestinian Hydrologists Group, the largest NGO monitoring pollution in the Palestinian territories. His conclusion couldn’t be more stunning: ‘The Gaza Strip will become a depopulated area, and it will take about 100 years to get rid of the environmental effects of this war.’

“As if its indiscriminate bombing, which has already damaged or destroyed up to 70% of all homes in Gaza, weren’t enough, filling those tunnels with polluted water will ensure that some of the remaining residential buildings will suffer structural problems, too. And if the ground is weak and insecure, Palestinians will have trouble rebuilding. ‘It is important to keep in mind,’ warns Juliane Schillinger, a researcher at the University of Twente in the Netherlands, ‘that we are not just talking about water with a high salt content here—seawater along the Mediterranean coast is also polluted with untreated wastewater, which is continuously discharged into the Mediterranean from Gaza’s dysfunctional sewage system.’

“During an average year, Gaza once produced more than 5,000 tons of olive oil from more than 40,000 trees. The fall harvest in October and November was long a celebratory season for thousands of Palestinians. Families and friends sang, shared meals, and gathered in the groves to celebrate under ancient trees, which symbolized ‘peace, hope, and sustenance.’ It was an important tradition, a deep connection both to the land and to a vital economic resource. Last year, olive crops accounted for more than 10% of the Gazan economy, a total of $30 million.

“Of course, since October 7th, harvesting has ceased. Israel’s scorched earth tactics have instead ensured the destruction of countless olive groves. Satellite images released in early December affirm that 22% of Gaza’s agricultural land, including countless olive orchards, has been completely destroyed. ‘We are heartbroken over our crops, which we cannot reach,’ explains Ahmed Qudeih, a farmer from Khuza, a town in the Southern Gaza Strip. ‘We can’t irrigate or observe our land or take care of it. After every devastating war, we pay thousands of shekels to ensure the quality of our crops and to make our soil suitable again for agriculture.’…”’The] removal of trees is directly linked to irreversible climate change, soil erosion, and a reduction in crops,’ according to a 2023 *[Yale Review of International Studies Report*. ‘The perennial, woody bark acts as a carbon sink … [an] olive tree absorbs 11 kg of CO₂ per liter of olive oil produced.’"

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